Myths and Legends: Journeys Through Time

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name wold smell as sweet;”– Juliet to Romeo in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Act II Scene II

The quote above is slightly out of place. It pertains to the fact that Romeo and Juliet are from opposing families. Romeo believes that their lives would be easier if he had a different name. Juliet is pointing out that she loves Romeo for simply being Romeo…not because of his family name or who his family is. In a way much of the same can be applied to Greek figurine Cassandra. All versions of the myth paint her as this madwoman, a lunatic who does nothing but rant and rave about things that haven’t yet happened and never will. Until it does happen. In Greek mythology Cassandra also known as Alexandra, was the twin sister of Helenus, who was the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Troy….the very same Troy of the Trojan War of which Cassandra played a very big part. However…her part is often glossed over in favor of players such as Achilles (immune to all forms of injury to any part of his body save for his heel, which was the only thing that wasn’t dipped into the Rive Styx when he was born), Paris (Who abducted Helen of Troy and started the whole mess), Helen of Troy (who was so pretty, a man was willing to and did risk war for her), and so on and so on. Instead the majority of the information about Cassandra focuses on how she was crazy, mad or insane…and how she came to be that way. There are two version as to how she received her gift of prophecy. One version says that she spent the night in Apollo’s temple and serpents licked her ears clean, allowing her to hear the future. In the other version, her beauty (She was considered the “second most beautiful woman in the world. Helen of Troy was the first….beaten only by the Goddess Aphrodite in beauty) caused Apollo to fall in love with her. He gifted Cassandra with the gift of prophecy in return for her promise to love him and pretty much be his. However she spurned his advances and he cursed her. It’s interesting to note that in both versions of the myth, he cursed her the same exact way, yet the origins of the gift are different. He allowed her to keep her gift of prophecy but twisted it so that no matter what she foretold, she would not be believed.  She was the one who predicted the Trojan War, the out come of it and the various things that would happen, yet because nobody believed her, she was powerless to do anything about it. She could do nothing but stand by and watch as everything happened exactly as she said it would. Due to these predictions, everyone wrote her off as crazy or a doomsday sayer. As with all Greek names, every name has a meaning. Two known ones of Cassandra are “Shining upon man” possibly due to her beauty and “She who is ignored” due to her speaking but nobody believing her. Cassandra also has two additional meanings “she who entangles men”which is an ironic meaning; she was beautiful yet scared men off when she spoke her prophecies and prophesied their deaths and “Someone who’s true words are ignored” which goes back into her curse.  Ironically enough…sometimes when I was growing up I had a few of my own “Cassandra” moments..especially where my siblings were concerned. It’s a good name but it does make one wonder from time to time.. Does the name make the person? Or does the person make the name?